The Sound of Summer

cicadaHere in southern Arizona, we have a lot of cicadas.  Evidence of their presence comes in two forms: 1) the husks remaining after they’ve crawled up onto a tree and burst out of their nymphal exoskeleton and become adults and 2) their loud sounds.  My sister and I used to collect the shells as kids.  Well, we did until my sister picked up one that still had the nymph inside.  It promptly grabbed ahold of her finger and terrified her.  I think she was maybe 4 or 5 at the time, but I doubt she’s picked up a cicada shell since, just in case there’s a surprise lurking inside.  I have no hangups of this sort, so I still collect them when I am lucky enough to see them.  I haven’t seen any for a few years now (honestly I haven’t been looking), but they always make me happy when I do.

cacadaThe sound is hard to ignore though.  I have a very sharp sense of hearing and the droning buzz of these insects is LOUD.  Sometimes it really starts to drive me nuts, but most of the time it provides a sort of loud white noise soundtrack to the summer.  I’ve actually come to associate this sound with summers in Arizona.

Maybe I’m noticing them more than I have in the past or perhaps there are cicadas closer to my house than usual, but they’ve seemed particularly loud recently.  A few mornings ago they were so loud they woke me up!  They were in the tree in front of my house, so the sound had to float through the open window, the living room, and a hallway to get to my bedroom.  Like I said – really loud!  So, I decided to record them.  The video below isn’t much in the way of a visual experience.  In fact, it’s a recording of a palo verde tree, one in which there was a cicada, so completely uninteresting.  I only present this in video form because I don’t have the upgrade necessary for me to insert sound files into my blog.  But listen to the sound on the video.  The noise was created by only two cicadas!  Two!!  They were making an incredible racket outside the front window while my husband and I were eating dinner, so I just had to capture it.

Without further ado, the sound of an Arizona summer.  For the most authentic experience, turn your speakers all the way up before hitting the play button!

I think it’s amazing that an insect a little over an inch long is able to make this sort of noise.  I can hear them over the evaporative cooler in my house, the traffic on the busy street nearby, and all of the comings and goings of my neighbors.  They’re impressively loud.  And thankfully they aren’t as active at night as they are during the day or I’d never get any sleep.

At some point in the future, I’ll cover how and why cicadas make these sounds.  Cicadas are pretty amazing animals (and gorgeous to boot!), so they’re definitely worthy of a more complete post.  For now, just sit back and enjoy the sound I hear all summer.  To get a better picture of the experience, envision sitting on a group of sharp little rocks under a stubby little tree with a handful of what are technically “leaves” (if you can call something a leaf when it’s a half inch long and an eighth of an inch wide).  Imagine the sun blazing around you at about 110 degrees (F) and the air sucks the moisture out of your skin.  Then layer on the ear-splitting sound of the cicadas screaming.  Ah, summer in Arizona.  Gotta love it!

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